The purpose of this study was to test in vivo two different nerve guides for promoting nerve regeneration across a 10-mm gap of the rat sciatic nerve: 1) one made of PLGA in a novel proportion (90:10) of the two polymers poly(L-lactide):poly(glycolide); 2) another made of (DL-lactide-epsilon-caprolactone) copolyester (Neurolac) tube, by comparing its healing efficacy with that of the more traditional methods of end-to-end nerve suture and autologous graft. Motor and sensory functional recovery were assessed throughout the healing period of 20 weeks, and the repaired nerves were processed for morphological and histomorphometrical analysis. Both motor and sensory functions improved significantly in all experimental nerve repaired groups. At the end of the 20-week follow-up, the end-to-end group showed better recovery of motor function when compared with the groups treated with guiding tubes. However, at this time point, the level of motor function in the Neurolac(R) and PLGA groups was similar to the one of the graft group. Nociception function also recovered faster in the end-to-end group compared with the Neurolac(R) and PLGA groups, and in this case, recovery was also delayed in the graft group. At the end of follow-up, nociception was similar in all experimental groups. Morphological and histomorphometrical analysis showed that axon regeneration occurred in both PLGA and Neurolac(R) experimental groups, with no significant differences in the total number of regenerated fibers, but disclosed a different pattern of degradation of the two types of tubes with larger biodegradation of PLGA material by the end of 20 weeks. These results suggest that both types of biomaterials are a good substrate for preparing tubular nerve guides, and their different pattern of degradation does not seem to influence the degree of nerve regeneration.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.